…except when it mattered.
With a tip’o the hat to that rode-hard-put-away-wet cowboy crooner cum hippie, Willie Nelson, I’m:
“On the road again,
I just can’t wait to get on the road again . . .
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again”
But this time to Canada for a family reunion with the Reist’s, a branch from my dad’s side of the clan. We’re going to spend a weekend together near Didsbury, a farming town of about 5,000 north of Calgary.
I’m traveling with my chronically peripatetic sister, Linda. In a rental car, we’ve front loaded the reunion by several days to first go down the east side of the Continent’s spine from the Calgary to Glacier National Park. Then turning west over the Divide and heading north through Banff and continuing to the iconic Fairmont Hotel on Lake Louise. Then crossing the Divide again for the reunion before taking in the last day of the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” the Calgary Stampede.
A comedy of errors. That wasn’t so funny.
But this little story comes with a sub-plot that, infuriatingly, just keeps on giving.
It began early in the morning when Linda flew in from her home in Albuquerque to DIA where we were scheduled, we thought, to catch a Frontier flight together to Calgary. But when she got to the gate she was told that the plane had already left. And that Frontier wouldn’t have another flight to Calgary for three days. Information that she immediately communicated to me while I was in my Uber to the airport. Talk about that sinking feeling.
“But,” she continued, “I might be able to get us on another airline that leaves this afternoon. But it’ll probably cost more.”
“Well, what choice do we have?” I replied. “We’ve got all the other arrangements made. I think we have to take it if you can get it. But I wonder what happened? I have it right here on my calendar that we should have had plenty of time to catch this flight.”
“Well, I’m not sure, but I think the travel agent messed up and didn’t send us the notice of the change.”
“Great. And, of course, it’s my travel agent. Well,” I sighed, “you better get the tickets. I’ll deal with the travel agent later.” And you can bet your bottom dollar that I will. ‘Cause those tickets, purchased at the last possible moment, cost so much that you couldn’t get me to confess how much even if you put thumb screws on each of my fingers. And toes.
But wait. There’s more!
When we got to the rental car desk in Calgary, the hits just kept coming. I’d forgotten my driving glasses-didn’t really need ’em to sit in the Uber on the way to the airport. And it didn’t seem quite fair to have my sister do all the driving.
Seriously abashed, I had to call my understandably resentful wife to have her ship them to the Lake Louise where I could take up the slack for the last few days of driving duty. And, at the time, it seemed like a good plan.
Until, that is, I got this text from my wife: “Took the glasses to the UPS store. $165.09 to have them shipped to Canada!”
“Oh, my Lord!” I exclaimed as I stared at the little letters on my phone. But my sister didn’t seem much surprised: “Lake Louise is remote. There aren’t any airports around there. I just hope they get there in time.”
But wait! There’s still more!
From Calgary, Linda drove us back across the U.S. border to Glacier National Park. There, we planned to spend a night and then take a ride in one of the famous open top “Red Bus Tours” that navigate the Going-to-the-Sun-Road to see the spectacular peaks, glaciers and wildlife. To make sure we were on track to be at the proper bus stop to answer the early morning “‘Board!” we scouted out the area after dinner at the rustic Lake McDonald Lodge where our table overlooked the lake and the rugged peaks beyond.
While on the road the next morning, we got engrossed in one of the several nourishing conversations that occurred during the trip. Since Linda moved away from home for college when I was a kid-and she never lived in Denver again-this was the most time we’ve spent together for decades. As she drove us down the winding two lane highway that followed a powerfully sinuous river coursing beneath pine clad slopes, we talked about war, peace, Christianity and my relatively recent conversion to near pacifism. So, rather than going just a few miles to the turnoff to catch our bus, we, completely absorbed, drove miles by it before she realized where we were. And so we missed the tour altogether!
Oh, well! All’s well that ends well.
Turned out, however, that it wasn’t altogether a bad thing. The drive back up across the Canadian border to our next layover in the tiny tourist burg of Radium Hot Springs on the west side of the Divide pretty much burned up the day even without our “going to the sun.” And even though the summer days that far north are anything but short.
True, the glasses fiasco continued to plague us for a few days; something, said the email from DHL, about getting a tiny pair of glasses across an international border. So Linda was at the helm for the rest of the drive. And I gave up and just told DHL to “return to sender.” Which they did. Has to be about the most expensive round trips that a pair of glasses has ever made.
But at least they were there to greet me when I finally made it home.